Home' The Chronicle : Canberra Chronicle 05-08-2014 Contents 9 - Tuesday, August 5, 2014
Women face cold home truths
Lucy Peter is considered at risk of homelessness.
Photo: Rohan Thomson
A steady income and tertiary qualifications are
not enough to stem the growing number of older
women on the edge of homelessness, according
to the ACT s first study of the vulnerable
On Friday, ACT Shelter will launch their
report Home Truths: Older Women's Housing
Vulnerability in the ACT, in an effort to deal
with one of the most disadvantaged groups in
the community -- older, single, low-income
women renting in Canberra.
The report recommends several strategies to
support homeless older woman while
preventing those at risk from falling over the
The results arrive amid an expected surge in
the number of Canberra women at risk of
homelessness, in line with an ageing population
and an expensive rental and housing market.
But the face of housing vulnerability in the
report is far from uneducated or unemployed.
About 70 per cent of the 45-year-old-plus
women surveyed had a job, while three-quarters
had completed tertiary study, painting an even
drearier picture for those with no occupation
and fewer qualifications.
The average woman surveyed had an income
of $804 a week. Her savings were around the
$200 mark and she expected to have
accumulated $74,000 in superannuation by
Despite regular pay packets, paying the bills
and putting food on the dinner table wasn t easy.
She might not be homeless yet but she feared
her life could take that dreaded turn.
Lucy Peter knows first hand how unexpected
that change can be. In the year of her 50th
birthday, the former New York executive was
diagnosed with terminal breast cancer -- a
prognosis of six months -- amid a divorce.
The 58-year-old Weston Creek resident
moved to Canberra for a fresh start two years
ago and has struggled to secure employment
despite applying for countless jobs, previously
running her own marketing company in
Adelaide and speaking three languages.
Today she relies on her $20,000 disability
support pension -- money she fears she may no
longer be eligible for by December.
"If I do [lose it], I m homeless," she said.
Ms Peter remained positive and said she just
wanted to live in a clean, private and secure
place -- even if it meant never owning property.
"I no longer think I will ever own an
apartment -- I just want to be able to afford rent,
a car, so I don t feel unsafe," she said.
It s a sentiment shared more broadly among
the target research group, according to the
woman behind the report, Lisa Petheram.
"It s quite scary for a lot of these women to
have insecurity of tenure into old age. That was
one of the main things that really came out of
this for me," she said.
Dr Petheram said a range of solutions was
needed to deal with the many reasons women
might face homelessness or insecure living
Innovative housing options such as
community land trusts could open up housing to
women with limited savings unable to enter the
regular housing market, according to the
Modifications to the ACT s existing land rent
scheme -- which, according to the study, were
better suited to young, low-income couples --
was another option explored to prevent
Other report recommendations included:
funding a specialised service to provide tenancy
advice specifically for older women; raising
awareness of housing vulnerability and
preventative measures among at-risk women
and other stakeholders; and developing policies
to ensure greater rental security and
affordability in the ACT.
ENGINEERING AUSTRALASIA ACCOLADES
Cotter Dam wins sustainability awards
ACTEW Water s Enlarged Cotter Dam project
has received two national sustainability awards
from the Institute of Public Works Engineering
The project won both the Sustainable
Infrastructure Category and was presented with
the Overall Winner Award.
The dam enlargement cost $405 million after
major flooding events and cost overruns. It was
completed in late 2013 after construction began
The project employed more than 3000
workers, providing more than 2.5 million hours
on the job which averaged 212 people on site
The new dam has a 7 kilometre artificial rock
reef in the dam to ensure the survival of the last
viable population of endangered Macquarie
Perch in the ACT.
It boasts two world firsts in infrastructure
design with the development of an aeration step
in the spillway and achieving a height of
87 metres for a roller-compacted-concrete dam
-- the tallest in Australia.
A development of heritage and community
areas with the Discovery Trail and upgraded
Cotter Precinct was also included with the
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